Oh great! It’s the school holidays again! Huzzah!
Because my kids are no longer at an age at which they need constant supervision and/or entertainment, I had somehow assumed that school hols and all their inherent horrors would now pass me by. And they would, if it were not for the parents who are utterly incapable of dealing with a bored, fractious child in any kind of constructive manner and whose idea of a sensible activity is to take Harold and Maud to the supermarket at mid-morning the day before a major Bank Holiday. As any fule kno, this is the time when, traditionally, the whole of the populace behaves as though Armageddon is nigh and descends upon Chavco with fire in their bellies and death in their hearts. You do have to wonder at people like these – they have clearly never read the String Bag and Octopus Guide to Parenthood, which I reproduce below.
I have to say that I didn’t write this (I wish I had). Someone sent it to me when TS was a small baby – one who refused to eat, sleep or do anything else one might reasonably expect of a newborn. It still makes me laugh today although I think it paints a somewhat rosy view of the minefield that is parenthood.
I am currently engaged in writing an updated version relating to guiding teenagers through their formative years. It’s taking longer than anticipated as I have to allow time for sobbing and rocking in a corner.
THE STRING BAG AND OCTOPUS GUIDE TO PARENTHOOD
1. Women: to prepare for maternity, put on a dressing gown and stick a giant beanbag down the front. Leave it there for 9 months then remove 10% of the beans. Men: to prepare for paternity, go to the local chemist. Tip the contents of your wallet onto the counter and tell the Pharmacist to help himself. Then go to the supermarket. Arrange to have your wages paid directly to their head office. Go home. Pick up the paper and read it for the last time.
2. Before you finally go ahead and have children, visit a couple who are already parents. Berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels and how they have allowed their children to run riot. Suggest ways in which they might improve their children’s sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners and overall behaviour. Enjoy it - it will be the last time in your lives you will have all the answers.
3. To discover how the nights feel, walk around the sitting room from 5pm to 10pm carrying a wet sandbag weighing approximately 8-12lbs. At 10pm put the bag down; set the alarm for midnight and go to sleep. Get up at midnight and walk the floor with the bag until 1am. Put the alarm on for 3am. As you can’t get back to sleep, get up at 2am and make a drink. Go to bed at 2.45 am. Get up at 3am when the alarm goes off. Sing songs in the dark until 4am. Put the alarm on for 5am. Get up, make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.
4. Can you stand the mess that children make? To find out, first smear Marmite on the sofa and jam onto the curtains. Hide a fish finger behind the TV and leave it there through the summer. Stick your fingers in the flower beds and then rub them on the clean walls. Cover the stains with Crayons. How does that look?
5. Dressing small children is not as easy as it looks. First buy an octopus and a string bag. Put the octopus into the string bag so that none of the arms hang out. Time allowed for this - all morning.
6. Forget the Mazda MX-5 and buy a Sierra. Buy a choc-ice and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there. Take a 20p piece. Stick it into the cd player. Get a family sized pack of chocolate biscuits. Mash them down the back of the seats. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car. There. Perfect.
7. Get ready to go out. Wait outside the loo for half an hour. Go out of the front door. Come back in. Go out again. Walk down the path. Walk back up it. Walk down it again. Walk down the road for 5 minutes. Stop to minutely inspect every cigarette end, piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue and dead insect along the way. Retrace your steps. Scream that you’ve had as much as you can stand until the neighbours come out and stare at you. Give up and go back home. Do it all again later. You are now just about ready to take a small child for a walk.
8. Go to your local supermarket. Take with you the nearest thing you can find to a pre-school child - a fully grown goat is excellent. If you intend to have more than one child, take more than one goat. Buy your week’s groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goats eat or destroy. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not consider having children.
9. Hollow out a melon. Make a small hole in the side. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side. Mush a Weetabix up with warm milk and attempt to spoon it into the swinging melon by pretending to be an aeroplane. Continue until half the Weetabix is gone. Tip the rest into your lap, making sure a lot of it falls on the floor. You are now ready to feed a 12 month old baby.
10. Always repeat everything you say at least 5 times. Always repeat everything…..